24-year-old’s life inspires pilot project at Fessenden School
By Debra Downey, Senior Editor
On the fourth anniversary of his death, Nicholas Morelli made 500 new friends at Fessenden Public School.
The 24-year-old’s life and legacy were the topic last Thursday morning in all Fessenden classrooms as family and friends launched the Pay IT Forward campaign to encourage students to incorporate good deeds into their everyday lives.
Angela Morelli, Nicholas' sister, said the new project by the Nicholas Morelli Memorial Fund is a proactive anti-bullying campaign designed to encourage students to become more conscious of little things they can do to help others. A Pay IT Forward bracelet will be given as a thank you for the kindness and in the hope the behavior will continue.
Along with encouraging good deeds, Pay IT Forward is an opportunity for students to reflect on Nicholas’ life.
“It (Pay IT Forward) matches Nicholas’ personality,” Angela told her Grade 3 students. “If we all try to be a little more like Nicholas — always with a smile on our face, and a warm and welcoming personality — the world will be a better place.”
Nicholas died tragically on March 20, 2011. He is the nephew of longtime councillor Bernie Morelli, who passed away in January.
Shortly after Nicholas’ death, family and friends created the Nicholas Morelli Memorial Fund to honour his memory by supporting local causes.
Angela said more than $40,000 has been raised so far to support the community. The money has been used to buy books for schools, establish scholarships at Mohawk College and St. Jean De Brebeuf, purchase 50 helmets for an inner-city school’s hockey program, donated to Camp Erin, a bereavement camp for children, helped create A Time to Reflect leadership program at Camp Marydale and hosted the annual Nicholas Morelli Cup fundraising hockey tournament.
Throughout the day on Thursday, Angela and other Fessenden teachers showed a YouTube video, then discussed ways students could help the community and make others feel good — simple things like saying hello, good morning, please and thank you, holding the door and making people smile.
Beginning in early April, students will take their bracelets home and give them away when they see others in the community being kind.
“I’d like you to be on the lookout for kinds acts...and give your bracelet to someone else,” Angela told her students. “It could be a store clerk, your hockey coach, a cousin or a neighbour. I would like you to pay it forward and this is a way of doing that.”
Shortly after her presentation, two Grade 3 students already knew the recipients of their bracelets.
“My dad’s best friend,” said Harrison. He always gives us NHL tickets and he always says hi to me.”
For young Cole, the choice was also easy.
“Our neighbours because they let us go and see their chickens, and in the summer, when they have corn, they let us play tag in the field.”
Angela is hoping the Pay It Forward program can be instituted in other schools and eventually make a difference in people’s lives throughout Hamilton.
Nicholas’ dad Larry, who was on hand with mom Lois for the Grade 3 presentation, said children can become everyday heroes like Nicholas simply by doing small, kind acts.
“...Nicholas always had a smile on his face and he always looked at the good in a situation. When you felt down, he was the type of person people would go to, to look for direction,” said Larry.
“Pay IT Forward lets Nicholas live with us now, in the present. He is not here with us physically, but he is spiritually.”
The Nicholas Morelli Memorial Fund hosts the annual Nicholas Morelli Memorial Cup this year on Saturday, May 24 at the Mohawk 4 Ice Centre. For more information on the tournament, Nicholas’ life and the memorial fund, visit nicholasmorellimf.ca.